(Fast Company) Work+Life Fit: First, Moms. Now, Dads…Then, Everyone

Posted by - . 2

You can’t change unless you’re ready.  Ready to recognize the need to change, and ready to make that change happen.

The good news is that it looks like we might be ready as a culture to recognize something that’s been true for quite some time—managing work and life is not just an issue for moms.  It’s also important for fathers.   BUT…

Unfortunately, from my experience:

  • Men aren’t currently included as equal participants in the work+life conversation culturally and within organizations, and
  • Recognizing that dads are active care givers who need and want flexibility gets us much closer to where we need to be.  However, we don’t seem ready to go all the way and acknowledge that work+life fit is really an issue for all of us.  Only then will we—government, employers and individuals—do the hard work necessary to fundamentally rethink how, when and where we flexibly work and manage our lives through our careers.

So, since we aren’t ready to go there (yet!), let’s celebrate the step we’ve made by recognizing that…

Dads need and want to flexibly manage their work+life fit too!

Boston College’s Center for Work and Family recently released The New Dad: Exploring Fatherhood Within a Career Context, a qualitative study of more than 30 middle-income first-time fathers.  All of the fathers surveyed had five or more years of professional experience, and all of them were college graduates.

According to BCCWF Executive Director, Dr. Brad Harrington, they targeted this group because most of the research to date had focused on low income fathers.   And, most middle-income families today increasingly rely on the income of both mothers and fathers to survive, yet as Kathleen Gerson noted in her book “The Unfinished Revolution:

“Regardless of their own family experiences, today’s young women and men have grown up in revolutionary times.  For better or worse, they have inherited new options and questions about women’s and men’s proper places.  Now making the transition to adulthood, they have no well-worn paths to follow…Most women not longer assume they can or will want to stay at home with young children, but there is no clear model of how children show be raised.  Most men no longer assume they can or will want to support a family on their own, but there is no clear path to manhood.  Work and family shifts have created an ambiguous mix of new options and new insecurities with growing conflicts between work and parenting.  Amid these conflicts and contradictions young women and men must search for new answers and develop innovative responses.”

Highlights of the study’s findings were presented by Dr. Harrington in a recent conference call and include (Click here for details):

Most felt becoming a father had changed the way others viewed them in the workplace and that the change was not negative. They were seen “as a whole person, more approachable,” “maturity, more responsible,” a “member of the club.”  About half said the change was minor and half said the change was more significant.

Most fathers assumed having a child would impact their career, but most agreed that they underestimated the degree of impact in both their work and life.

While most didn’t lower their career aspirations, becoming a father had changed how they defined success.

Most fathers used day-to-day informal flexibility to manage their work+life fit, versus formal flexibility.  And many said their managers were supportive of the work+life issues.

Most fathers wanted to achieve a 50/50 split in the responsibilities of care giving and if they weren’t achieving it they were trying to do better.

When asked what it meant to be a good father, the fathers felt it was just as important to provide financial as well as emotional support, which to them meant being present, spending time, being accessible, just “showing up.”

Looks pretty good for new fathers, but dig a little deeper…(Click here for more)